KTM Duke 390 long-term Review
Text & Photos: Gourab Das/ MG
It was back in 2007 when I bought my last bike, a Pulsar 220 Fi. 6 years have passed hence and still I haven’t found a single bike to which I can upgrade to which is affordable, provides ample amount of fun and yet will not burn a hole in my pocket in terms of owning or running it. And I’m not the only one who share the same emotion
CBR250 came but it was never really a proper upgrade for the guys who owned a Pulsar 220 or Karizma People are missing a middle superweight bike which will produce 40-50bhp power and yet will be super value for money from a really long time now. A 390cc which delivers 43.5 ps of power, does 0-100 in almost 6sec was finally something which was fulfilling our dreams on paper and which we all are looking forward to. This is that one bike which all the enthusiasts are dying to get their hands on.
With 43.5ps power and 139kg of dry weight my expectations were sky high the day I was supposed to get the bike. Quite understandably you don’t get to ride such bikes everyday. After watching the initial videos where in one video a guy just effortlessly pulls a wheelie and went inside the tunnel rose my expectation level even further up and was expecting the bike to do power wheelies and was waiting like a 16 year old kid at the candy shop. Don’t remember the last time when I was so much excited about anything. Maybe I have grown old or maybe I have become so busy with my job that I don’t find time to do something interesting.
This review will be divided into various parts. Made it a point to even include my initial ride impression when I rode the bike for the first time. The first experience will rhyme the sentiments of everyone who will get a chance to ride the bike for a short period of time but they might miss the larger picture so by reading the other sections one will get a clear picture as to how the bike behaves in various riding condition. If I miss anything then do let me know will add that later
“Higher octane fuel is not easily available in India so I made it a point to ride the bike with regular fuel all the time to see whether there is any difference. Didn’t face any problem with the normal petrol till date. Bike runs very smooth with no loss in performance”
Starting with the style there is hardly to choose between the two given the fact that both looks identically same but the orange colour chassis and wheels do leave an impression and make it more funky looking and younger in appearance. And even with the Duke being around for 1.5years during the test period I found that at almost every signal you will find people staring at your bike. That being said personally I would have loved to have some more changes to make it look little distinct from its younger sibling
Initial Ride Impression
My first ride was towards Lonavla. For the initial few kms I was holding back myself at 70-80% of the throttle and was not red lining the bike just to understand the characteristic of the bike and also to check how much power the rear wheel is generating and whether there are possibilities of unintentional wheelie or possible wheel spins. Once I got a proper feel of the bike I started opening up the bike upwards of 120. Soon I started hitting 140’s and on my way to Lonavla I did 150+ thrice.
The vehicle was quick but I was expecting the acceleration to scare me atleast for the initial few times but it didn’t happen, the acceleration and power is quite manageable and it didn’t do anything extravagant. Since the vehicle was new so stopped after doing 80odd kms to check whether the bike was overheating or everything is running fine. Was happy to see everything doing just perfect. Did a moving average speed of 86kmph in 60mins which also included riding through the city for 10 odd kms. Not bad I would say.
6th gear felt very tall and most of the time I found myself to be riding in 4th and 5th gear on the highway. 130 comes in no time from standstill but anything above 150 is too difficult to hold because of the wind blast, saw a max speed of 158kmph in this ride. Even after 130 the acceleration in this bike is quite evident. Got the initial feel of tyres in a small ghat section where I could sense how composed and great the tyres are. The vehicle holds its line so well that you feel that you are glued to the road, the chassis which is same as the one used in 200 seemed to be doing a great job even on the 390. By the time I did 120km odd I was dead tired, it was pretty hot at around 35degress but honestly I was not expecting to get so much tired within 2 hours. Exhaust note, wind blast, stiff suspension, hard acceleration were the probable reasons, made a mental note to check these things the next time I ride the bike
Vibrations are there specially felt at the footpegs at around 7k rpm but its not something which will annoy you and is pretty much under control. There is also slight vibration at the handle bars but if you riding with the gloves then you will probably not feel it
Same day I had the company of Ninja 300 and we had a longish ride of 300kms during the second half of the day. That ride made me realize how quick the Duke is in comparison to the Ninja 300. Maybe I was expecting a bit too much from a 390cc motor, more so since I had ridden a 690 Duke in the past and know how mad that bike is.
Ride through the city
Being a street bike it shows its true colours when ridden on city roads. Amazing how a new bike completely changes your perception about another bike(Duke 200 in this case). I remember calling the Duke 200 a hooligan but today there is no bigger hooligan on the road than Duke 390
The bike is so much fun to ride on a decently moving traffic. Keep the bike on the boil, the moment you see a gap, just shoot. The amount of power that you have makes you go about any maneuver with aplomb. And sadly for others before they could realize you have vanished from the scene. The lightweight chassis coupled with the brilliant tyre and awesome power delivery makes it the best maneuvering machine. And even with so much power at hand you find yourself to be in complete control of the situation all the time.
Just a km of empty stretch is enough to see 130kmph on speedo and one would see that speed more often than not even on a day to day ride
But things are not so rosy on a bumper to bumper traffic. Since the vehicle is tuned for higher revs, the real power starts kicking in post 6.5krpm and there is good amount of snatching at higher gear low speeds. At crawling speed you will mostly find yourself riding in 1st gear. And that’s when engine temperature starts rising very quickly, most of time you will see temperature at one bar or two bar less than maximum. On a very hot day it can be little uncomforting for many. If the vehicle is moving then you won’t feel much, but if you are stuck in the traffic for almost 20min with the engine on then you will slowly start to feel the heat.For Pune weather it is never unbearable but can’t comment on the likes where temp goes upwards of 45, even for those places if you are on the move you won’t feel much.
If you see the engine temperature going into the high zone and the cluster showing ‘High Coolant temperature’ the vehicle will not cross the 4k mark for 5-6 mins till the bike is back to normal riding temperatures. There is no need to panic as this is a safety feature which has been implemented so that the engine is not damaged
Disclaimer: The above will happen very rarely and might not happen at all for everyone
The suspension is stiff but that is what gives it a true sporty character and the immense handling prowess
The vehicle will return a mileage of 20-23 when ridden in city traffic. Go gentle on the throttle and you will get better mileage
But honestly if you are getting better mileage than this then you are not using the full potential of the bike
On a highway
My first ride on the highway had left me with many questions. How the bike behaves at high speeds, long hours of riding, mileage it returns, fatigue, cross winds, overtaking speeds these were the questions that were revolving in my mind
The first thing that hits you when you open throttle is the acceleration from 0-130. The vehicle reaches there very very fast and without doing much of drama. Even 150 come quick without the vehicle loosing any steam but any speed above 140 is difficult to hold for a longer period of time. Tried many a times with more determination but the amount of wind drag that one encounters post 140 makes it very difficult to hold the speed. On a very windy day just before monsoon sometimes even a speed above 135 becomes too hot too handle
Anything above 150 is a just a mathematical number till the time one buys that wind screen which will be available at KTM store as an accessory. And for that mathematical number sake I saw a max of 163 on the bike I rode.
Holding 130kmph in 6th gear doesn’t put stress on the engine and you can do it all day but the wind drag at that speed will tire you much faster. But that is not the end of story as the bike urges you to rev it harder and harder so holding any sort of speed on this bike is not easy. Max I had gone non stop on this bike was 250kms
On my approximate 1500kms that I have done on 4lane and 6 lane highways ~85% of the time I have found myself in 4th and 5th gear. 6th to me is useful only after 125 unless one just wants to cruise at 100-110kmph in 6th gear. Most of the overtaking is done on 4th gear
The Duke doesn’t pretend anything and that is one of its plus points on highway. You have to see the face of a much powerful car guys when they are smoked by Duke 390. With the advent of Ninja’s and CBR’s many expect a full fairing bike to go faster or probably smoke them but when a small bike like Duke outacclerates them it just flummox them. The look on their face is unmatched. Once I outacclearted an A6 very easily with the Duke 390. I went ahead and then slowed, the car caught with me after some time slowed down rolled down the window to check how could a small bike can smoke a mammoth car so easily. A big grin on my face and 10/10 to the Duke
I have heard about people saying how hard the seat is. There is no denying the fact that the seat is hard but for long hours I actually felt that the seat actually gives good support and grip as the surface is textured and the rider doesn’t slide around. Also since the seat is pretty wide so it accommodates you and gives you enough space to move around your butt
Mileage varies from 24 to 29 depending on how fanatically you are wringing the right wrist. A cruising speed of 110 in 6th gear will return around 28-29kmpl while someone like me who loves to be always in the red zone will be happy with a figure of 24
Engine heating in not an issue on highways and most of the time you will find the temperature to be 2-3bars less than maximum and you will not feel any heat. Most of this testing was done on peak summer months(Around 35 degree in Pune) and on a rainy day the bars are generally 3-4 less than maximum
The bike is surprisingly rock stable even on heavy cross wind but mileage takes hit by another 2kmpl
The headlamp will feel adequate for city riding but feels average to ok for any kind of highway riding. This is because the vehicle touches speeds of 100 in almost half the time than any other Indian bike even though its a 55/60W setup and powerful than most of the Indian bikes
On a country road or riding through the ghats
The bike is dream to ride on two lane good country roads and ghat section. The amount of fun the bike provides is unmatched. You will not get similar performance feedback even a higher cc bike on a similar terrain. Unarguably this is where I liked the bike the most since most of my riding also constitutes riding on country roads
It is equal fun on a winding ghat as on a straight patch of a road. The overtakings are bliss and you will find yourself overtaking 4-5 vehicles at one go without putting any extra effort.
A special mention of the tyres here which are the best that any Indian bike have got till date including the Ninjas(250 and 300). A MRF which does duty on the 200 will not be able to handle similar speeds with so much of assurance. Whether you are accelerating, braking, taking a corner, making quick maneuver the tyres stick like glue
Notes on tank range
Touring is the most accessible and popular bike sport in India among enthusiasts and the full potential of the bike is explored through this sport and in absence of any true tourer we use any and every bike for touring. Duke 390 will also be inevitably used for touring
Lot of discussion had been done on this topic. So lets see how it really fares on the real world scenario
The tank range is pretty less at ~230kms. If you are on a highway then its ok as you can easily find a fuel bunk but on a state highway this is a concern for many including me. At 180km on the trip meter you need to look for a petrol pump and by 200kms things start to get on your nerve.
Another irritant is the fact that on any other bike one needs to dismount the tank bag to fill up at ~350kms but here it starts ~200kms so technically on a Pune-Bangalore run one need to stop four times for refilling
On a rainy day
As already mentioned the tyres does their job so well that your speed don’t suffer even on a rainy day. Plus the assurance of ABS makes you brake harder without thinking twice. What I had realized is that I’m returning similar average speeds even after it has started raining
Although the bike likes to get dirty and in the event the rider is also not spared. The bike behaves like a spray can when ridden above 100kmph and not only the bike gets very very dirty but the rider is also not spared(if there is no pillion). After every rain ride I found my jacket, helmet and everything else in a mess
Ride with a pillion
I hardly ride with pillion but with Duke 390 I got multiple opportunities to ride with the pillion.
With a male counterpart none of the two will enjoy the ride as with the sudden acceleration the pillion will go back and forth and it will put immense pressure on ones hand and helmets will also keep on banging all the time and as a rider to avoid it you wont be able to ride the bike naturally, mostly you will be toggling between 30-50% of the throttle and with the bike sputtering at the lower rpms it doesn’t become an enjoyable ride. This fatigues both the rider and the pillion
The sudden jerk comes at 5-6k rpm if you are doing wot(wide open throttle) and at that speed it can throw the pillion out of the vehicle so be very careful about the pillion safety if he/she is not holding anything properly
However if the pillion is your girlfriend/wife who can cling on to you under hard acceleration the ride becomes much more enjoyable for both of them. But then also mostly you will play at 70-80% of the throttle or else it will put too much pressure on your body because of pillion clinging on to your body very hard
Long rides with pillion for 3-4days is possible but anything above 7days is difficult as once two people sits on the bike provision of luggage is very less. Also clinging all the time to the rider is not possible on a long ride
Off road performance & some slushy experience
A lot of people think KTM to be a off roader because of its pedigree. This bike is not an offroader in any sense and even Duke 200 will fare better than this
This is not about riding on broken roads where the bike fares pretty well. We are talking about serious off-road here
I had taken the bike to Rajmachi(Google for Rajmachi for people who don’t know about the place) when it was dry to check the offroading capabilities and also had the chance to ride it in slushy condition. Here is what happens:
1) The otherwise stable suspension doesn’t help its cause and the stiff suspension makes the bike unstable and sends too many jarring shocks to rider’s body
2) On most of the climbs you will find yourself in 1st gear because of the average power delivery below 4k which makes it almost impossible to ride it 2nd gear in more occasions than none.
3) Also once the bike crosses 6k there is too much power so there is always a possibility of the bike going out of your control in case you decide to ride fast
4) Since most of the time you will ride in 1st gear so there is always a chance of overheating the engine
5) Lots of wheelspin in case there is loose soil or slush because of the power that it generates at the rear wheel which makes it difficult to control
How it fares with smaller Duke
This is not a comparison but wanted to ride both the Duke 200 back to back with 390 as being the member of same family wanted to see how they are alike or different in nature. Also with a difference of just 50k there will be many Duke 200 prospects who are thinking about 390 now
Both the vehicles bring a lot of food for thought for me and were an eye opener in many respects. If one is looking for a bike to be ridden ‘solely in city’ then Duke 200 makes a better purchase.
The following speeds at various gears will tell it
Minimum speeds at which KTM 200 can be ridden in various gears (All are speedo indicated)
2nd -Can be used from standstill
For Duke 390
2nd – 15-20
The lower limit suggest the bare minimum speed where you can shift on a 390 but the upper limit is ideally where the bike doesn’t struggles
As evident from the numbers bottom end in Duke 200 is much better. While on a 390 you will mostly find yourself in 1st gear in peak traffic, on a Duke 200 you can easily ride in 3rd gear. 390 below 3k rpm feels very jerky and is not enjoyable. Also the heat felt will be more than Duke 200
Also the power feel comes much earlier at 5k for Duke 200 as compared to 6.5K for 390 and being a short geared you seems to reach there much faster on a 200. For someone who doesn’t like to rev hard to stay in the power band Duke 200 will suit more. And this is probably the reason why in most of the initial ride impressions Duke 200 owners were not very impressed with the power delivery.
From the numbers it is also evident that for 200 5th and 6th gears are also very usable even for city rides which helps in getting a much better mileage in city than 390
The above comparison was made keeping in the heavy traffic that we face on our everyday city ride. If you stay or ride in area where you have less traffic then 390 is better
Even with the extra weight of Duke 390 the dynamics of both the vehicles is identical but you will be able to push the Duke 390 better because of the impeccable tyregrip. MRF’s in rain are pretty bad and this one will realize when they ride both the bikes back to back. On hard downshifting there is always a possibility of locking up the MRF
When it comes to highway performance or riding through country roads Duke 200 doesn’t comes close to 390’s performance. On a highway the feel that one gets in Duke 200 and speeds of 100kmph is similar to 130kmph in 390
Other figures for D200
Maximum speeds in each gear
100 @ various gears
Max speeds in each gear
100 @ various gears
6th – 5.25
5th – 6.25
4th – 7.5 rpm
For most the usual gearshift will happen at 7k rpm
Speed at 7k in each gear
1st – 40
2nd – 60
4th – 96
Mention about ABS
I’m not a very big fan of ABS as I always tries to keep things under my control and don’t want the habit of ABS kicking in and doing my job. Hence didn’t really tested it to the core
But it is a boon specially when you are riding in wet condition with so much power on tap. When I was doing high speeds in rain it was always on my back of my mind that in case of emergency ABS is there to save me
Summarizing the key highlights one more time
The bike is dream to ride on two lane good country roads. The amount of fun the bike provides is unmatched.
Highway performance is very good. 120kmph comes very quick and overtaking a much more powerful car is very easy. Highway riding is mostly done on 4th and 5th gear with occasional 6th as 6th is effective only after 125 kmph.
Cruising can be done as low as 110 in 6th gear and 100 at 5th gear at 6k rpm. At this speed there is zero stress on the engine and one will probably get maximum mileage(30+)
The temperature on the highway is around 2-3 bars less than maximum and on a rainy day it will be 3-4 bar less than maximum. On a tricky ghat section where you will be mostly using the 1st and 2nd gear you will generally find it 2 bar less than maximum
The tyres provide excellent grip and this is the best tyre till date on any Indian bike including Ninja 250 & 300. Never felt loosing control of the bike either at high speeds or during cornering or in rains. Holds up pretty well in the offroad terrain too
The bike is pretty stable on heavy cross wind even at high speeds
Front brake is decent and does their job but its not close to the Ninja 250’s sharpness or feedback
If you continuously wring the throttle you will feel more tired on this as compared to say a Ninja 300 or CBR250. A 200km ride on Ninja is equivalent to 150km in Duke. The mad acceleration plus the lack of windscreen (above 130 there is a lot of wind drag) puts a lot of stress on your neck and hand. Though I’m not complaining about it
Mileage which otherwise is ~25kmpl drops to ~21kmpl when ridden continuously above 120kmph or riding through thick traffic, also riding through heavy cross winds the fuel consumption takes a hit
Front feels light and although it doesn’t wheelie but one needs to be careful to understand how the bike behaves under heavy acceleration and downshifting atleast for the initial few days
Engine braking is excellent and you will see speeds dropping rapidly as soon as you leave the throttle
Some other inputs
1) One needs to press the starter a wee bit longer than any other bike, say the bike will start at 5 if you do a 1-5 count. More than any issue with startability its about getting used to
2) If the high coolant temperature icon comes the bike will not cross the 4k rpm for ~5mins till the time the temp is again back to normal. This is a safety feature to avoid engine damage
3) ABS is a hidden button on the instrument cluster just below the SET button and by default it is always on as soon as you switch on your bike. You can turn it off while riding the bike if you want
4) Just like cars without any input to the throttle the vehicle can easily move at 10kmph, this proved helpful at slushy situation when any amount of throttle leads to massive wheespin
5) The end of the throttle is not free so as to avoid the unnecessary acceleration. More of a safety feature
6) When the F icon comes at instrument cluster approximately 9 lts of fuel goes inside the tank
7) Gearshift noise(a prominent thak) as evident in higher cc bikes is there when you shift from N to 1st and 1st to 2nd. Sometimes you will get some noise while shifting from 2nd to 3rd
Summarizing it up
So the first important question. Is this a serious upgrade to those who are riding the likes of 220 and Karizma. The answer is a big Yes
Every time you are astride this bike it will bring a big grin on your face even with the limitation that it has. This is one such bike which dislikes low speed and also by riding slowly you are not doing justice to the bike. It constantly urges you to rev it more and more and go faster and faster. There is never a dull moment when you are riding the 390 the way it should be as the bike keeps you busy all the time. Be it riding through the city roads or blasting through the highway or meandering through state highway the bike gives you every buck for your money
As stated by me sometime back in my FB status update “There is nothing sober about this bike and after each ride I had found my legs to be shaky and that is the best thing for me in this bike”
This is not a relaxed bike by any which way but every time you get on the bike you will forget all your tension of your life and it will make you feel 10 years younger. There are currently very few bikes in the market which will give you this feeling.
Another very big advantages is the fact that being so light anyone and everyone can handle it and take it anywhere without the fear of dropping it. And even in case of a fall the damages are minimalistic
True that with a killer price of 1.8lkah ESR this bike is anyways going to sell like hot cakes but more importantly this bike is a worthful upgrade for the enthusiasts. This is not a flawless bike and that is the beauty of this bike and will keep you happy for a very long time.
Note: The reason why you guys are seeing Duke 200 sticker is because its a test vehicle in Duke 200 decals
The below long ride was done when the bike had completed 10k kms:
Recently did a 2800km ride to Chennai from Pune and back. Wanted to do this run from a long time to check its performance on highway on a longer run. This is what I found from the ride
• Average speed on Duke 390 is much higher than any other Indian bike. Pune – Bangalore run of ~900kms was done in less than 11 hours including stoppages with a moving average of 98kmph.
• Contrary to my earlier belief that it might be very tiring for anything above 500kms per day it turned to be pretty comfortable and I was not feeling tired even after ~950km on the saddle
• Other than the Ninja250 and 300 this is the only bike where 6 lane highways don’t feel boring even after long hours because of the ability to touch 160+ at your will and cruising at ~130kmph at other times
• On open straights speeds of 130-135 was held for 10-15mins even while sitting upright. Earlier I reported having difficulty in holding speeds of 130kmph but post monsoon the less windy condition were favourable for holding higher speeds
• At speeds of 110 the bike rides effortlessly and there is zero stress on the engine and gives a feeling that the bike is only doing 60kmph
• Top speed achieved on the ride was 172kmph (speedo indicated). Though post 165kmph one really need to put a lot of effort to reach that speed
• The biggest negative that had come from this ride was the limited tank range. Had to fill 7 times from Pune to Chennai excluding one full tank which was filled before the start of ride. Had filled mostly between 160-170km after each tank fill even then there were occasions when had to slow down lest I ran out of fuel because of unavailability of any pump at a particular stretch. The route for this ride mostly comprised of major & popular highways but still risked the chance of running out of fuel twice.
• Always filled regular petrol irrespective of the bunk size so if you are planning to pamper it by stopping only at the big bunks then its not going to happen
• Rear tyre gave away at ~10000km and was changed in Chennai. Replaced with MRF Revz which comes standard with Duke 200 as wanted to test how 390 fares with the MRF
• MRF holds good till 140kmph but after that the vehicle feels shaky and by 150kmph it becomes very unstable, on hard gearshifts around the corner and doing WOT there is a tendency of rear slides even when the surface is dry. In wet one has to be really careful so as to not loose control if you are using the MRF on 390
• The vehicle had done 13000km but still the front tyre is in pretty good shape. Will last for another 3000kms
• Average speed of more than 100kph is also possible on this kind of run as the above run was done with MRF’s which are not great above 140kmph
• Mileage of 20-22kmpl when ridden above 130kmph for most of the time and around 25-26kmpl when holding speeds of 100-120kmph
Note: The average will improve by 2-3 kmpl in production bike as this is a test bike which is trashed from the very first km
Pics from the ride